Many news stories about printed electronics have focused on breakthroughs in research labs. But the field is advancing from lab to fab, from research to manufacturing. DuPont Advanced Materials is launching a new electronic ink for inkjet printing under the name PE410 that offers the high conductivity and strong adhesion required for rapid digital design, prototyping and full-scale manufacturing.
The technology will enable digital printing for electronic components and circuits in applications where extremely fine lines are required, such as OLED panels, solar cells, printed antennae and touch panels. The ink requires only a low sintering temperature, which makes it suitable for printing on PET. It also shows good chemical compatibility and adhesion on multiple surface types and organic layers. The ink is suitable for the PiXDRO LP50 with Konica Minolta print head and the Fujifilm Dimatix Material Printer.
The PE410 is the latest contribution to a growing market. The research company IDTechEx stated in its recent report titled ‘Conductive Ink Markets 2015-2025: Forecasts, Technologies, Players’ that the market for conductive inks and pastes will reach 3 billion USD in 2025. Within the printed electronics industry, the conductive ink and paste market is one of the largest and most dynamic segments. New inks that enable faster, more efficient processes and a wider range of applications drive this growth.
“As the leader in the printed electronics industry, we must stay one step ahead of our customers’ needs,” said Kerry Adams, segment manager, DuPont Advanced Materials in a statement. “Our new conductive ink for digital printing will open the door to the next important wave of innovations enabled by printed electronics.”
DuPont has a broad portfolio of conductive inks for a growing array of applications. One area that is developing fast is wearable electronics with products ranging from biometric shirts to wearable gadget such as smart wristbands that monitor vital statistics and track daily activities. Smart clothing with integrated sensors requires inks that not only remain conductive when stretched but also survive wear, tear and up to one hundred wash cycles. Biometric shirts are being developed that provide feedback on the user’s heart rate or body temperature but according to experts this is only the beginning of a new generation of clothing that will not only monitor but actually aid performance.
Electronic inks that cure at lower temperatures are another focus for ink manufacturers. The first electronic inks have required curing temperatures between 100°C and 140°C restricting electronic substrates to those that can survive at high temperatures. The new inks cure at temperatures of around 60°C and allow printed electronics designers to use less expensive film. This is not only interesting for printed antennae and biomedical sensors but also for smart packaging applications.
In-mold electronic inks, which reduce the need for rigid circuit boards, have seen major improvements as well. The inks allow electronics to be integrated directly into plastic featuring touch switches, thus eliminating the need for bulkier and heavier conventional switches and wires this saving space in weight on car dashboards or consumer electronics.
With many recent advancements in the electronic ink industry, product designers and engineers will develop more applications and products that will provide better, more affordable and aesthetic user experiences. Being able to use electronic inks in a full-scale manufacturing process is an important step of the way.